Scotland's Climate
Change Ambition

The Scottish Government has proposed a legally binding target of net-zero emissions by 2045.

There is a global climate emergency and the Scottish Government is determined to lead the world in tackling it. We will end Scotland’s contribution to climate change, definitively, within a generation.

On 2 May, our independent experts, the UK Committee on Climate Change, published a report that said Scotland could achieve net-zero emissions by 2045, so long as the UK Government increase their ambition too.

The report can be seen at https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/net-zero-the-uks-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming/

The Scottish Government acted immediately by lodging amendments to the Climate Change Bill to set a target date of 2045 for reaching net-zero emissions. The amendments to the Bill also raised the ambition of the 2030 and 2040 targets to 70% and 90% emissions reductions respectively. The Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee voted in favour of these targets at Stage 2 on 18 June 2019.

The targets we originally proposed for the Bill were already world leading. By increasing them even more, and by setting a net-zero target date of 2045, we are redefining what it means to be world leaders on climate change.

We have already succeeded in nearly halving greenhouse gas emissions while growing the economy and increasing productivity and employment, so we are well placed to achieve this.

What does net-zero emissions mean?

As defined in the IPCC Special Report (https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/), net-zero is when emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere are balanced by removals of those gases (such as carbon being absorbed by forests). This is equivalent to a 100% reduction in net emissions from baseline levels.

Scotland’s headline targets are based on reducing emissions across all the greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol. This means carbon dioxide, but also methane and other gases.

Carbon neutrality means net-zero emissions of carbon dioxide only. Targets to reach net-zero of all greenhouse gases by 2045 will mean that Scotland is carbon neutral by 2040.

If agreed by the Scottish Parliament at Stage 3, our Bill proposals will mean that:

  • Scotland will have some of the world’s most ambitious targets in law.
  • Scotland will be carbon-neutral, meaning net-zero CO2, by 2040 at the latest.
  • Scotland will reach net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045 at the latest.
  • Scotland will continue to be the only country with legally-binding annual targets. That means being held to account on progress each and every year.
  • Scotland will continue to include a fair share of all international aviation and shipping in its targets. Scotland was the first country to do this.
  • Scotland’s targets will continue to cover all greenhouse gases – including those generated by land use changes such as methane and nitrous oxide.
  • The earliest achievable date for reaching net-zero emissions will continue to be regularly reviewed. If it becomes credible to set an even earlier date than 2045, we will do that.

Taken collectively, our proposals mean that Scotland will have the most stringent statutory climate targets in the world and that our contribution to climate change will end, definitively, within a generation.

The Committee on Climate Change

Establishing the emissions-reduction targets each country needs to limit global warming is not straightforward.

The Committee on Climate Change is an independent, statutory body established under the UK Climate Change Act 2008. Its purpose is to advise the UK and Scottish Governments, along with the other devolved administrations, on emissions targets and report to Parliaments on the progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change. It is made up of experts in the fields of climate change, science, economics, behavioural science and business.

When advising on target levels, the Committee on Climate Change considers various factors, including how Scotland can fairly contribute to the global effort. It also considers the likely impact of the targets on:

  • Jobs and the Scottish economy
  • Public spending and borrowing
  • People living in poverty or on lower incomes
  • Remote, rural and island communities
Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions by gas

We want to achieve our targets by focusing on actions which will also make Scotland a healthier, fairer and more prosperous place to live.

We will update the Climate Change Plan within 6 months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent. In doing so, we will look across our whole range of responsibilities to make sure we continue with the policies that are working and increase action where that is necessary.

At the heart of our approach is the concept of “just transition”, to make sure no one is left behind. A “just transition” to net-zero emissions is one where people can be confident there will be jobs for them, communities benefit and businesses do well. The Scottish Government has established a Just Transition Commission to provide Ministers with practical advice on how to achieve this.

The Committee on Climate Change has been explicit that Scotland cannot deliver net-zero emissions by 2045 through devolved policy alone. It is welcome that the UK Government has followed the Scottish Government’s lead to legislate for a net-zero target. UK-wide policies will need to ramp up significantly, and the Scottish Government has called on the UK Government to act in reserved areas, including:

  • Accelerate deployment of fully operational carbon capture utilisation and storage facilities.
  • Accelerate action to decarbonise the gas grid, and consider the balance of taxes across different heating fuels to enable affordable low-carbon heating in homes and businesses across Scotland.
  • Re-design vehicle and tax incentives to support industry and business investment in zero emission and sustainable transport choices.
  • Commit to adhering to future EU emission standards regardless of our position in relation to the EU.
  • Reduce VAT on energy efficiency improvements in homes.
  • Ensure continued support for the renewables industry.

We are all going to need to work together to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change. Meeting Scotland's climate change targets will require transformation across society. The Big Climate Conversation will run nationwide to discuss action to tackle the global climate emergency. You can find out more, including engagement events near you, at: https://www.gov.scot/policies/climate-change/low-carbon-living/.

The CCC point to actions that individuals and households can take including:

  • The way you travel:
    • Choose to walk, cycle or take public transport rather than a car.
    • Make your next car an electric one, and then charge it 'smartly'.
    • Minimise flying, especially long-haul, where possible.
  • In your home:
    • Improve the energy efficiency of your home (or ask your landlord to) through draught proofing, improved insulation, choosing LED light-bulbs and appliances with high efficiency ratings.
    • Set thermostats no higher than 19°C and the water temperature in heating systems no higher than 55°C.
    • Consider switching to a low-carbon heating system such as a heat pump, especially if you live off the gas grid; if you are on the gas grid consider a hybrid system.
  • What you eat and buy:
    • Eat a healthy diet, for example with less beef, lamb and dairy.
    • Eliminate food waste as far as possible and make sure that you use separate food waste collections if available. Reduce, reuse and recycle your other waste too.
    • Use only peat-free compost.
    • Choose good quality products that will last, use them for longer and try to repair before you replace.
    • Share rather than buy items like power tools that you don't use frequently. If you don't use your car regularly then consider joining a car club instead.
  • Look for changes that you can make in your workplace or school to reduce emissions and support your colleagues to make changes too.
  • Talk about your experiences and help to raise awareness of the need to act. Consider the wider impacts of your actions (e.g. through your pension or ISA and via the companies you buy from).